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Thomas Newcomens Engine - Essay Sample

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Boston College
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Thomas Newcomen was one of the most prominent English inventors of the sixteenth century. Born in Dartmouth, Britain, in 1663, Newcomen was brought up in a family of well-established non-conformists merchants (Butterman, Eric). Newcomens father introduced his children into the trade at an early age which made them highly apprenticed. During this period, religious non-conformists in Britain were discriminated and denied freedom. As such, Newcomen and his siblings apprenticeships were never recorded. It is thought that Thomas Newcomen acquired training as a blacksmith apprentice in his before commencing to establish himself as an ironmonger in the year 1685 (Butterman, Eric). Part of his early enterprises included mending machinery, designing and crafting hardware components as well as and supplying and trading hardware tools to mine workers. Interestingly, Newcomen was a renowned teaching elder and a lay preacher in one of the local Baptist church (Butterman, Eric). It is believed that Newcomen and his brother received their education from John Fravell who served as a Baptist preacher at the local church.

As an established ironmonger, Newcomen became well versed with the challenges facing the mining industries as well as its laborious nature. He made numerous trips to the mines while trading hardware components and mending machinery. The deep mines were consistently full of flood water, and the miners used highly laborious and inefficient methods to drain the flooded mines. Thomas noticed that the inefficient methods used were expensive, limited and were responsible for the rising cost of tin. As a merchant, he began to gain interest on how to solve the problem by creating an alternative and efficient method of draining the flooded mines to regulate the cost of tin. For about ten years, Newcomen collaborated with John Calley, a renowned plumber, to design a sophisticated steam pump which was an improvement on vacuum pump initially designed by Thomas Savery (Butterman, Eric). The new atmospheric steam pump revolutionized the mining experience and later became the defining and one of the most important invention of the industrial revolution.

The first Newcomens engine began operating at a coal mine at around 1710 ("The Power Behind the Industrial Revolution"). The new invention became the powerful force behind the rapidly advancing textile inventions which included the power loom and the spinning mule. Practically, the steam pump was a symbol of transition from the use workforce in homes to the use of machine power in industries and factories. Also, Newcomens engine revolutionized transportation after it effectively applied to ships and locomotives ("The Power behind the Industrial Revolution"). Notably, the primary source of fuel in England and other parts of the world was wood from local forests. By the beginning of the seventeenth century, only a small percentage of the local forests remained, and the need to identify a new source of energy was inevitable. The discovery of coal as a new source of energy presented its challenges. The use of windmills, human power and domesticated animals in the mines was inefficient, expensive and extremely laborious. The invention of the steam pump by Newcomen paved the way for a new era of industrialization.

Even though the Newcomens engine was originally designed to lift water, it gradually outdid its original purpose and eventually rose to propel the human race into the modern industrial age ("BBC - Devon - Discover Devon - Newcomen's Steam Revolution"). Today, our world is propelled by highly efficient gas turbines, nuclear reactors and on a large scale, combustion engines. However, without the invention of the atmospheric steam pump, the current world would be a very different place. The effect of Newcomens invention on the world is still experienced today. His invention is widely described as the power behind the industrial revolution and ultimately, modern civilization ("The Power behind the Industrial Revolution"). From the transport industry, agriculture, mining, and manufacturing, the steam pump transformed the world by significant proportions. Also, the impact of this invention is widely exhibited through the printing press, telegraphy, the telephone, electric power, the telephone and computers that have exerted far-ranging and dramatic influence on modern civilization.

For more than two centuries, Newcomens prototype engine, as well as the improved version, has been the single most source of power for transport systems and industries in the west ("BBC - Devon - Discover Devon - Newcomen's Steam Revolution"). Virtually, the invention and later improvements on Newcomens engine altered and affected every industry. It was an invention that created a ripple effect across all societies both locally and overseas. The introduction of the engine to the coal mines in the west improved the coal mining industries which later became the most sourced source of fuel for the rising numbers of steam engines. It enabled miners to dig deeper without fear of flood waters. The metal industries responded to the effect of the new invention and in turn, made new improvements to create larger and powerful machines ("BBC - Devon - Discover Devon - Newcomen's Steam Revolution"). Following this, new industrial society was created, the factories. The textile industry, for example, expanded rapidly after the incorporation of the steam engines to drive the vast looms. His invention enabled commercial production of fabrics on a large scale.

A significant advantage of the Newcomens engine was its adaptability to rotary drives through mechanical linkages. Such flexibility enabled engineers and designers to create the steam-powered transportation system. The creation opened doors to other multiple inventions such as the steamships, locomotives and other steam-powered automobiles ("BBC - Devon - Discover Devon - Newcomen's Steam Revolution"). Within a few years, a network of rails connected towns, countries and eventually, the rails linked continents. The new mode of transport proved to be fast, cheap, more efficient and reliable. The steamboats and locomotives allowed transportation of large volumes of cargo in addition to increased safety. Consequently, the new means of transportation encouraged both local and international trade and the rise of major cities. Notably, the new invention enabled steamboats to travel upstream without depending on wind and water current for navigation. Travel times were also reduced by half and locomotives were modified to transport passengers and goods efficiently.

The economic impact of Newcomen's engine was of great benefit to the growing countries, especially in the west. The coal industry, for example, experienced a significant increase in the volume of that was mined. Together with the locomotive automobile, the steam engine enabled swift transportation of goods through the railway lines and across seas using steamboats (Butterman, Eric). It also facilitated easier transportation of raw materials such as cotton as well as manufactured goods to and from industries and markets. Newcomen's engine also promoted the growth of seaside towns. The new mode of transport encourages tourism and settlement of people in smaller towns. As a result of flourishing tourism industries, the smaller towns increased, and more and more people became drawn to them. Also, Newcomen's engine propelled industrial output by facilitating mass production of goods (Butterman, Eric). As a result, countries such as America and Britain experienced rapid economic growth in which was crucial in a rapidly growing population.

Thomas Newcomen's engine also played a massive role in changing the social life of many people. His role in social transformation in America, as well as other parts of the world, is still felt today. Perhaps the first to experience the social impact workers in the coal mines. Before his invention, miners used human labor, horses and oxens to drain the flooded mines. However, the introduction of the Newcomen's engine facilitated quick, efficient and automatic draining of flood water in both deep and shallow mines. In essence, the steam pump simplified the process of draining floodwaters. Later on, adjustment of the steam engine allowed miners to be lowered in and out of the quarries. Secondly, the Thomas invention had a huge impact on traditional farming which was practiced by a large percentage of the population. Before the invention of the steam engine, farmers cultivated crops for local consumption. However, the introduction of steamboats provide opportunities for farmers to transport their products across borders via inland canals. The change experienced by the society was positive and led to improvements in peoples living standards as well as their lifestyles.

The introduction of steam power in America has had significant impact and influence on the American culture. Since the introduction of the first steam engine in America, significant changes and refinements of the prototype engine have resulted in more practical and highly efficient equipment (Manley's Boiler, Inc.). This equipment has dramatically shaped the United States as well as the daily lives of American citizens. Devices and equipment such as steam boilers are some of the essential components of life to all Americans. The steam generating boilers have for long provided Americans with affordable steam power. The introduction of low-cost steam-generating boilers enabled Americans to utilize the steam power and ultimately enhance their lives (Manley's Boiler, Inc.). In essence, availability of affordable steam power facilitated extensive societal change across the American population about labor practices.

Introduction of the practical steam-powered equipment and machinery created numerous employment opportunities as well as a platform to showcase and develop individual skills. The steam engines encourage people to relocate to towns or cities to seek employment in the emerging factories. The livelihood of American citizens was significantly transformed in addition to the emergence of the middle class (Manley's Boiler, Inc.). More transformations were experienced after the creation of the power industry. The introduction of advanced boilers facilitated the distribution of electric power to industries and residential homes. New inventions and designs such as tube-designed boilers allowed the introduction of less expensive and yet very efficient steam power to American citizens (Manley's Boiler, Inc.). Without the Newcomen's engine invention, the lives of American citizens could perhaps be very different today. Without steam-powered equipment, the transportation and labor practices we experience and appreciate today would vary greatly. Indeed, the American history is inseparable from the invention of the Steam power.

Works Cited

"BBC - Devon - Discover Devon - Newcomen's Steam Revolution." Bbc.Co.Uk, 2018,

"The Power Behind the Industrial Revolution." Telegraph.Co.Uk, 2018,

Butterman, Eric. "Thomas Newcomen." Asme.Org, 2018,

Manley's Boiler, Inc. "History Of Steam-Generating Boilers | ManleyS Boiler." Manley's Boiler, 2018,




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